Boarding Patients in Emergency Room Hallways Can Increase Risk of Medical Error
The reality in most emergency rooms around that country is that many patients wait several hours to be evaluated, treated and finally admitted to the hospital. Far too often, patients end of “boarding” in emergency room hallways as they await for a hospital bed to open. This opinion piece published on NPR, talks of a bedridden patient with chest pain who spent 47 hours in the hallway before they were finally moved into an open spot in the cardiac unit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016, two-thirds of American hospitals boarded patients in the ER for more than two hours while waiting for an inpatient bed, affecting about one in five patients.
The American College of Emergency Physicians has identified boarding as one of the most important consequences of ER overcrowding.
Medical issues associated with ER boarding include increased risk of medical error
Apart from the frustration of seeing a loved one waiting for care in a hallway, patients sometimes become confused and disoriented – symptoms of delirium- as a result of being left in hallways.
Overcrowding and the resulting practice of boarding is associated with delays in pain medication and antibiotics, longer inpatient stays, delayed treatment, greater risk of medical error and increased mortality rates. The bottom line is that without access to a hospital bed, it can be difficult for doctors to administer appropriate treatment.
Why are hospitals so overcrowded?
There isn’t one simple answer for why hospitals are so overcrowded that boarding has become such a common occurrence. A major factor in overcrowding is that more than 1,000 hospitals have closed across the country since the mid-70s because of lack of profitability while ER visits have been increasing since the 1990s. And yet, according to data on cdc.gov, most U.S. hospitals are operating at only about 65 percent of their total inpatient capacity. How can both of these things be true? One factor is that Medicare insures about 60 million Americans and reimbursement rates have been cut back over the years for managing health conditions as the cost of technology required to run a modern hospital has skyrocketed. At the same time, Medicare reimbursement rates are higher for invasive procedures, including surgeries, that require longer hospital stays and take up bed space. If a large percentage of surgeries are scheduled for early in the week and none late in the week or over the weekend, there will be a large variation in patients occupying hospital beds from day to day, which directly contributes to the overcrowding and under-capacity dynamic. Essentially, the inefficient use of beds including restricting beds to certain specialties and the tendency to schedule surgeries at the beginning of the week is the real cause of boarding.
Suing a hospital for malpractice
When a hospital doesn’t perform in a way that meets accepted standards of care and this results in the injury of a patient, there may be a legitimate medical malpractice claim. An injured patient or the family of a deceased person has a legal right to file a medical malpractice claim in order to recover damages.
Discuss the case with a medical malpractice attorney to confirm whether the hospital acted negligently. If the attorney believes that negligence can be established, they will seek medical records and other evidence as well as interview medical experts who may be retained as expert witnesses. After evidence is gathered, the medical malpractice lawyer will draft and file a complaint.
Seek the help of a medical malpractice attorney
If you were injured because of medical negligence or lost a loved one due to a preventable medical error, you have enough to deal with. Let an experienced medical malpractice attorney fight for justice on your behalf. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times larger with the help of a medical negligence lawyer. Call the most experienced practicing medical malpractice attorneys Bellingham has at Tario & Associates, P.S. today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing people injured by medical negligence in Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!